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Blazing fast and incredibly powerful - the best tablet value on the market right now
on February 3, 2014
For those who want a super quick review, here ya go:
The HP Slate 7 Extreme is absolutely the best value for 7 inch tablets on the market right now. Its MSRP is $30 less than the Google Nexus 7 of the same capacity, and it easily destroys the Nexus 7 in benchmark tests and real world applications. Also, it comes stock with a stylus that works incredibly well. Overall, if you're looking for a 7-8 inch tablet and you don't want an iPad Mini, you simply can't do any better than this tablet.
And now, for the longer review...
Amazingly fast and great multitasking ability
Good (not great) battery life
Nearly pure Android OS
Plays virtually every single game available on Android on highest settings with zero lag
Front facing camera is a joke (more on this later)
Let me start off by saying that I did A LOT of research before I bought this tablet. I wanted something up to date, fast, and something that ran as close to stock Android as possible. These three criteria narrowed it down to basically three choices: The Google Nexus 7 2013 (MSRP $229.99; hereby abbreviated G7 to avoid redundancy), the Hisense Sero 7 Pro (MSRP $149.99), and the HP Slate 7 Extreme (MSRP $199.99; abbreviated S7E). One thing worth noting is that the S7E is a rebrand of the Tegra Note 7; it has the EXACT same specs, but better build quality. If you happen to be reading this review because you're trying to decide between the Note 7 and S7E, I'd say go with the HP.
The only other decent 7 inch tablet options were a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 (way overpriced for the hardware inside) and the Kindle Fire HDX (great hardware, but runs a heavily modified version of Android and is basically "Amazon - now in tablet form!"). Between my final three choices, I ended up cutting the Sero 7 Pro out because it's very difficult to find for a reasonable price, and because it noticeably lags behind the other two in terms of performance. Therefore, my final two choices were the N7 and the S7E. At first, I was going to go with the N7 because it's the reigning king of bang for your buck 7 inch tablets, but after comparing the two, I realized that the S7E was an even better value.
First, let's talk about specs. The S7E has a quad-core Tegra 4 processor with each core clocked up to 1.8GHz (and a fifth core for behind the scenes operations). The N7, on the other hand, has an older quad-core Tegra 3 with each core clocked up to 1.5GHz. Clear win for the S7E here. Next, I'll compare the screens. The S7E has a 1280x800 screen, while the N7 boasts a 1920x1280 screen. The N7 has more pixels-per-inch (PPI) and a sharper screen, but honestly, you're not going to notice the difference on a 7 inch tablet unless your nose is touching the screen. Win here for the N7, but it's fairly inconsequential unless you're really anal about screen quality.
Moving onto RAM, the S7E has 1GB and the N7 has 2GB. This is another win for the N7, but in actual performance, the S7E's improved processor is enough to make up for the difference and blow the N7 away. Capacity wise, both tablets come with 16GB of space (the N7 also has a 32GB version), but the S7E has expandable storage while the N7 doesn't. Big win for the S7E, in my opinion. Google doesn't include expandable storage on the N7 because they want you to store everything in the Cloud, but I much prefer being able to store things on my tablet.
The last comparison I'll make is between the cameras, and this is the only real fault I find with the S7E. Both tablets have a 5 megapixel camera on their backs, and they both take okay pictures (personally, I don't use my tablet as a camera, but to each their own). Both tablets are also equipped with a front-facing camera, but they differ a bit here. The N7 has a 1.2MP front-facing camera, while the S7E's is only 0.3MP. The front-facing camera on the S7E is honestly horrible, and it's basically useless for video chatting because the quality is just that bad. This is the only aspect of the S7E that's truly bad, and I find it unacceptable that a top of the line tablet in the year 2014 is still using such a low quality camera. This is obviously a big win for the N7, and if one of your top priorities is a good front facing camera, you may want to choose the N7.
After looking at the specs, the N7 and S7E are fairly similar, aside from the S7E having a much improved processor. What good are specs though, right? Performance is what actually matters. And that's where the S7E is simply better than the N7 and it's not even debatable. Despite having less RAM, the S7E is faster than the N7, can multitask better than the N7, and can run more intensive games than the N7. The battery life of the S7E suffers a bit thanks to its powerful hardware, but it still gets 8-9 hours on a full charge (compared to 10 or so for the N7), and that should be enough for most people.
So, at this point, you might be saying, "Alright, so the S7E is faster, but I still don't see why it's such a better value." Let me introduce you to the included stylus of the S7E. In the same vein as the Galaxy Note series, the S7E includes a stylus that you can write on the screen with. Many recent tablets have started to experiment with stylus technology, but honestly, most of them just aren't very good. Many of them have lag problems, or problems with the screen not correctly reading the stylus input. I'm happy to say, however, that the S7E's stylus works flawlessly and is very, very accurate and zippy. I'm a student, so the ability to take handwritten notes is invaluable to me, and it's made even better by the fact that the stylus for the S7E works about as well as any tablet on the market. It should be obvious that the inclusion of a stylus is a HUGE win for the S7E here; the N7 can't even begin to complete because even if you bought a stylus for it, you'd be paying more money and it wouldn't work as well because the N7's screen isn't designed for stylus use.
So, let's recap: The S7E has a much better processor than the N7, comes with a stylus that works incredibly well, and is $30 cheaper. The N7, on the other hand, has a nicer screen, slightly better battery life, a better front facing camera, and better OS support (the N7 gets updates faster because it's made directly by Google). Which one is better for you obviously depends on what you're looking for in a tablet, but for me, the choice was obvious: The S7E was the better value, and I couldn't be happier with it. The N7 is a great tablet in its own right, but it just can't stand up to the performance, features or price of the S7E. You certainly had a nice reign as the king of 7 inch tablets, Nexus 7, but I'm afraid it's time to...
Move, Nexus 7, get out the way, get out the way Nexus 7, get out the way. Why? Because there's a new tablet in town, and you just can't hang.